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Davis has Hat-Attitude — a great love affair with hats

April 10, 2011

The first photo ever taken of me in my “Memories of My Baby-Hood Album” featured me with a hat on my head. I think I was born loving hats. 
A hat is cover for the head worn my either sex, and it a horizontal brim round the part covering the head. “A beautiful face is shadowed by a perfectly enomous hat,” and when one  puts on hat, she or he suddenly has a real personality-plus. 
The expression, “Hats Off To You” means a call to acknowledge the oustanding qualities of a person or thing.
I love hats of all colors, sizes and shapes. Hats have an extraordianaire about them, and they are very extra special and take on a personality all of their own the second you “plop” a hat on your head.  You indeed become the personality of that special hat.
This photo and painting within this photo is “worth a thousand words.”
Look closely  wiith me and find two 1800’s hat stands that have real facial features on them.  These two hat stands have been in our family all of these years and I inherited them from my own grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Edwards McReynolds. She designed and created hats and painted beautiful paintings too. 
Perched on top of each hat stand are two straw  hats designed and created by her daughter, and my own aunt, Parthenia Amelia McReynolds Dodds. Resting on a brass easel is a portrait of Parthenia painted by her uncle, and my great-uncle, famous classical artist, Wycliff (Wick) Edwards when grandmother and Parthenia visited Uncle Wick during the world’s fair in Chicago, Ill. years ago.
Wycliff Edwards was a good and dear friend of Jack London, and it has been said that Wick painted the original cover for his book, “The Call Of The Wild” of a wolf standing in snow.
On our antique oak wooden kitchen table you now see two hat stands, with two very special hats (designed and created by my own aunt)  perched on top of these very old hat stands, you see a brass easel and resting within the easel a beautiful portrait also (designed and created by my own great uncle). 
These three, grandmother, aunt, and great uncle left to me one of my most cherished and treasured gifts... their legacy...  handed down as a long lasting gift of a talent of creation to express ourselves through painting, or designing hat or just the appreciation of simple expression. What gifts and what a legacy they left behind for me and for you now to enjoy and appreciate and most of all just love.

‘My Discovery of Two
Dodd Hats in Jackson’
On May 7, 2009, Frank, my sweet husband of now 46 years, and I returned from a trip to Jackson, a different route back home to Starkville, through Canton. We decided by accident or was it predestination (“whatever will be, will be” which is our Presbyterian belief) to pull over, park, and go inside a shop, Canton Square Antiques, in the neat little city of Canton. 
I not only adore vintage hats but vintage clothes as well. They are both great passions of mine.
I immediately spotted a booth and area and went directly towards it. I began to try on hat after hat. 
It was a hard decision, and if you happen to really know me, you would say, “Now, Carole do you need to add one more hat to your already over 1,000 hat collection?”  The answer is “no,” but it doesn’t hurt to look.
I finally decided on an off-white straw ‘picture hat,’ as we call them “Down South.” It had a large brim with the sweetest most tasteful light turquoise/blue, light jade green velvet ribbon around the brim of it.  It showed age and character, and had several brown stains within the straw. 
Let’s just say, “This hat had lived and enjoyed a previous life.” It had a gentle and sweet design with an elegant very Southern taste about it. 
I went up to the glass counter top and spotted some 1940’s jewelry that just matched perfectly this ribbon color. I had to add this most appropriate jewelry to my purchase. I paid the lady $16 for the hat, and added extra money for the jewelry, and we headed on our way out of the store. 
When we got into the car and began our way back home to Starkville, I decided to turn the hat over to see where it was made — thinking, “bet it was made in China” as most everything we purchase seems to made in 2009.
Carefully I turned over my new old hat, and there was the label, “Dodds Hats, Jackson, Miss.” (spelled Miss. and not Ms.) I could not believe my eyes, and I began to scream. “Oh, Frank, I just bought my own Aunt Parthenia Hat.” I quickly got my cell phone out of my blue jean over-all pocket and began to let my fingers quickly “dance” across the phone to my last living aunt, Mary McReynolds Weems’ “land-line” telephone number. 
“Hello, Mary, it is your niece Carole, and of all the hats I tried on in an antique shop in Canton and ones I contemplated purchasing this day, I just bought Partenia’s hat made probably in the 1940’s. Mary it definitely has her label inside, I can not believe this, can you?” 
Quickly Mary said, “Carole, it is just predestination that sent you inside this shop, and, yes, this is her label.  You remember Parthenia had a shop for years on North State Street in Jackson called, Dodds Hats, and she often sold her hat creations to our Mississippi Governor’s wives as to other prominent ladies all over Mississippi.” 
Mary kept talking, “Carole, remember how talented Parthenia was? She painted, played the piano,and did lots of other crafts. She was a creative and very busy lady.  She never ever worried about anything, and once a lady who has just lost her husband came to her for some advice. She said, ‘Parthenia, I am so lonesome I can not stand this sorrow I am experiencing, what should I do?’  Parthenia said, ‘Go home and bake some cookies, and take them to a good friend.’  Do you remember the little hen that would just appear at Parthenia’s back door named, ‘Doris,’ and she would be there every morning early waiting for Parthenia to bake her some hot corn bread to goggle down. Parthenia was ‘to die for’ beautiful. She was truly beautiful and born an absolutely beautiful very ‘Southern Real Lady’...just look at her portrait that was painted by Wick Edwards when she was probably 16 years old.  She sat for this portrait as did grandmother there in his Chicago Art Studio so many years ago.”
I wore my hat all the way home, and kept turning down the mirror on the visor of my side of the car to just peer inside to take a look at my new old hat. My thoughs drifted to my own daddy, John Andrew McReynolds, II, the oldest of eight children. Daddy was the oldest, followed by Doris, Joe, Parthenia, Henry, Roberts, Edwards and Mary.  Five sons and three daughters.  Only Edwards and Mary are still living.  What a life they all must have enjoyed and lived.
The very next day, I phoned the Canton antique shop back and talked to another lady who said to me, “The lady who has that particular booth inside this shop is also in the shop today working in her booth, do you want to speak and talk to her directly?” 
I answered with excitement and quickly, “Oh, yes, may I please?”
I met for the very first time, Mrs. Rose Casano, and got her to give me her Jackson address and phone number. 
She said, “I may and I think and I am almost certain that I have at least one other, Dodds Hats. I promise you I shall look and see and if I can find another one among my collection, and I will phone you back.” 
I said, “goodbye”and wondered if I would ever hear from her again?
Time went by and it was on July 4, 2009 that Frank and I went to the National Noxbee Wildlife Refuge to go paddling in a canoe. 
Two times a year, the Refuge allows visitors to borrow a canoe for an hour or so, and explore the Bluff Lake area.  We especially wanted to go and see the cow egrets nesting area among the huge Cypress trees, the blooming water lilies, and hear the bull frogs singing,and see the fish jumping. 
The sky that early morning was cobalt blue and there were no clouds.  We had a wonderful July 4th adventure in a canoe down at Bluff Lake.  When we got to shore and back into Frank’s little truck, I noticed that I had a cell phone message on my phone. 
I checked this message, and on the other end of the phone came on the recorded message...”This is Rose Casano,and I just found you another Dodd’s Hat. It was in the very last hat box I looked in today, call me back, Rose.”
I waited until we returned home to return her call because there is a “dead spot” in a place on the Refuge, and I knew that I wanted to talk longer to her once I got back home. 
“Hello, Rose Casano, It is Carole, and I am so excited, and what color is the hat?”
“It is red. Red is my absolute favorite color in the whole wide world,and it is RED.”  Rose said, “It is red straw, small brim, and covered with lots of flowers, of red and pink with a tall crown, and it could be a 1930’s or 1940’s hat, but Carole, I am not sure that I want to sell it.”  
Rose kept hesitating, and she said, “I paid $50 for it years ago, which was probably 15 years ago, and I purchased it from a very wealthy lady here in the heart of the city of Jackson, and she got it from an estate sale in Ridgeland,from a lady who owned a huge estate and someone who might have owned a huge state newspaper business in our area maybe the old Jackson Daily News which is now our Clairon Ledger Newspaper...and Carole, this rich lady did not want to sell me this hat either, but I talked her into selling it to me.  She loved the hat as well as I love it.”
I now began to wonder if I would ever see Parthenia’s red straw hat covered with flowers on the top, and, gosh, I loved it already sight unseen.  Rose kept hesitating on the phone on the other end of our conversation. 
She suddenly said, “Carole, would you like to swap me a hat of yours for this hat?”  I suddenly looked around my sunroom downstairs art studio,and I, like Rose, and this other rich lady are very attached to all my over 1,000 hats as much as they are too.  There was silence as I glanced quickly over my hats, and returned to our conversation.
“Rose, I don’t see one hat that I would swap with you.” 
Suddenly she said, “Yes... I shall sell you this hat only because you are the niece of Parthenia and you must have adored and loved her so very much. I want to make a profit, and will you be willing to pay me $150 for it, and I shall carefully pack and mail it priority mail to Starkville for you?” 
I was screamed, “Yes, Rose, and I shall make you a check out for $160 to include mailing and I shall put this check into the mail today heading your way to Jackson.”
She again said, “I will begin to pack the hat immediately, and both your check and this treasured hat will probably ‘cross paths’ as they go and come through the postal service. It will probably arrive on your door steps maybe Thursday or Friday.”
It was like waiting until Christmas day to arrive on these very hot, humid, and unbearable July days in 2009. Mississippi gets hot, hot, and hotter, doesn’t it?” These two days passed, and still there was no box on our door steps. Saturday arrived and earlier this past week, I had dropped by to visit my good talented friends, Haze Allsup who owns The Flower Company.  I told Haze about my “hat that would be arriving” and cut a deal with Haze, “When I get the box I will dash quickly over here to your store, and together we shall open it, I promise, Haze.”
Saturday arrived, July 11, and I “was out bopping around town,” (probably looking for a hat to purchase somewhere), and drove back into our car port area when I noticed on our screened in little back porch a big tall box, and I could see a priority mail sticker on it.  Frank had been mowing the front yard, and had brought this tall box from the front porch to our back screened in porch, and placed it on a rocking chair there for me to see when I came back home. 
I quickly grabbed the light weight box, pulled my cell phone out of my pocket, and quickly dialed Haze...”I’m on my way to open up my treasure, be there within seconds.” 
I broke the speed limit as I quickly sped off to The Flower Company.  Haze began to quickly slit the tape off the box, and I closed my eyes. Haze said,”Oh, Carole, it is beautiful and it is definitely ‘A Carole hat.’  
It fit perfectly.  And did I fall madly in love with my own aunt, Parthenia’s red straw hat.
Parthenia Amelia McReynolds Dodds had been the artist this time. She had so carefully and so artistically created and placed each flower and petal and using the beautiful red staw as her own canvas. 
I put it on and went all over town that Saturday proudly showing it off. 
Parthenia McReynolds Dodds  lived to be 93 years old, and she was married her whole life to a very handsome gentleman, Charles Dodds.  They had only one son, Charles Richey Dodds of Houston, Texas.  In her later years she had gone to Texas to live with her son, Charles and his wonderful wife, Pattie Dodds who called her, “Mother Dodds.” Pattie loved and took care of her as if she were her own mother.
Parthenia’s son is also very handsome, an MSU graduate, and they are the parents of  three daughters and one son.  They had twin daughters.  Parthenia died in their home in Texas, and her body was brought back to Starkville to be buried by her sweet and handsome, “love of her life,” Charles, in Odd Fellows Cemetery on University Drive.  Her father-in-law was Dr. Dodds, a beloved medical doctor who practiced medicine for many years in Starkville. 
You can only imagine how much I treasure these two hats artistically created by my aunt, Parthenia (named for a Greek goddess) Amelia McReynolds Dodds.  The love  I feel for my family... a grandmother who was as talented as her own daughter, Parthenia, and her own famous and classical artist brother, Wycliff ( Wick) Edwards  who went to Ole Miss to college, and studied art  in Paris, France, and became a commercial artist in Chicago, Ill.
The great legacy they gave... and then left to me... in two antique 1800’s wooden hat stands, two straw hats, and a portrait resting on a brass easel. 
The greatest legacy is the talent they left behind for me and for you to now enjoy as I write this column with great pleasure and is so much fun to share with each one of you through the generosity of our local newspaper, “Starkville Daily News.”  I appreciate coming into your homes and hopefully into your hearts...”sharing a slice of my life”...with each one of you. 
It is my honor and my pleasure, and most of all so much fun to express myself through my creative work merely sketching and painting what I see all around us each day as  we all live, work, and play in Starkville, Oktibbeha County, and Mississippi State University, and I say, “thank you”...”my viewers” being a part of looking and reading this column.

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